In our tech-forward, capitalist society, a lot of people ask, what is the difference between an entrepreneur and an innovator? These words are often used interchangeably as if they mean the same thing.
A lot of people claim to be one or the other in advertising or when hyping up their business. Anytime words get thrown around a lot, they’re liable to be abused, or at least used haphazardly or imprecisely.
It’s worth delving deeper into each word to appreciate the contrasts between these concepts and get past the marketing slogans to the heart of what they really mean.
An entrepreneur is someone who operates or organizes one or more businesses, often assuming outsized financial risk.
They’re often credited with being visionaries who see the future before it happens and believe in their visions so fully that they’re willing to raise and invest large sums to put their money where their mouth is.
In other words, they bet on themselves, and they usually bet big. It might be other people’s money that they put on the table, but the investors they borrow from want a return on their investment eventually. Usually a big one, and soon.
There’s no such thing as free money, and accessing investor capital comes with its own significant pressures and risk.
Entrepreneurs don’t necessarily reinvent how people see the world or conduct their life day to day — perhaps their product represents an improvement on what came before, rather than a paradigm shift or a reinvention that replaces it altogether.
Some of the world’s greatest innovators are artists like John Coltrane, who incorporated R&B tenor saxophone techniques like overblowing the horn into experimental free jazz of the late 60s.
Other innovators include James Joyce, whose novel Ulysses is still a dazzling, foundational masterpiece over a century later.
Together, they transformed and elevated how writers, musicians, and people everywhere thought about art and even life itself.
The term “innovator” is also used to describe those in business who do things a little differently than their predecessors.
The tech sector is relatively new, and perhaps no sphere in society evolves quicker. Unsurprisingly, people in it do business differently than people did before smartphones existed.
Now, there’s a digital marketplace for lots of things. For example, innovator Regan McGee started an open digital marketplace in the real estate industry, which was and continues to be in need of disruption.
His platform Nobul is the world’s first and only open digital marketplace that connects consumers with their real estate needs.
In an interview with Toronto Life, Regan McGee explained that “People think buying and selling real estate is complicated, but that’s a way for agents to justify their fees.”
When you’re making the single largest purchase of your life, one that your family will not just depend on but literally live inside of for years to come, it needs to be made carefully.
Innovation involves changing the fundamental processes of things that have been done the same way for years.
Millennials and other tech-savvy homebuyers are used to relying on their phones to get news, make purchases, and everything in between.
It makes sense to continually expand what phones can deliver on and make platforms that work in the customers’ favour by having agents compete for their business by offering better services or even cash back.
Put another way, innovators reinvent and refine aspects of the world around them, and the world remains forever changed as a result.
What’s the Difference?
Being an entrepreneur overlaps with being an innovator in multiple ways. Both involve seeing and believing in alternate ways for the world to be better, or at least they can identify a product the market lacks before the market itself knows.
Believing in your own vision is crucial, whether you’re an artist like a writer or musician or for people in business, too.
The number of critics and skeptics is likely to vastly outnumber those who truly believe in you, no matter what you’re doing or how you propose changing the future.
We live in a tech era, but we also live in a marketing era where people rush to self-identify as “entrepreneurs” and “innovators” to make themselves seem more significant than they are.
It’s important to see through the superficial claims and focus on what these words really mean, so you can appreciate who is actually making a difference in our world.
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